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Friday, June 22, 2012

Guest Post: Book Reviews – Self Published Authors, by Tamera Lawrence

Jill Elizabeth posted this on June 21st, 2012

Today’s post is a guest piece by author Tamera Lawrence, offering her thoughts on the perils – and rewards – of performing book reviews for (and providing feedback to) self-published authors. This is a subject near and dear to my own heart for a few reasons. First, I too am a reviewer who more than occasionally has found herself contacted by a self-published author seeking reviews and publicity. Second, because I’m hoping to be an author seeking reviewers at some point in the not-too-distant future. While I’m still not sure if I will go the self-publishing route (it’s not my first choice – I still suffer from the snobbishness of a girl who longs to feel the warm glow of validation that only a New York big publishing house can provide), I’m not ruling it out. Despite the aforementioned snobbishness, I want my books out in the world too – and if I try and no one wants to publish them for me, well, then I’ll just have to man-up and do it myself.

If you’ve gone that route, or even if you’re just curious about the process of book reviewing, Tamera’s piece should be a good read for you. Enjoy – and thanks again Tamera for sharing your thoughts and experience!

Book Reviews – Self Published Authors
by Tamera Lawrence

As a Book Reviewer, I have read all kinds of books by many wonderful writers. Many are traditional books. But many are by self-published authors. Without the benefit of an editor, a self-published author can be alone with the editing process. A really great story can get bogged down with unnecessary wording. There is also the dreaded dangling modifier.Although writing is fun, it’s also a lot of work. Sometimes an author is too close to their story. The writer forgets that a reader needs to see what the writer wants them to see. Feel what they want them to feel. The setting, time period and characters and plot need to stand out early on so that a reader gets hooked right from the beginning. A reader needs to care about the outcome – grab onto a character and stay hooked.

Recently, I had to create a few really tough book reviews. I always try to find something good in the writing. Writers can be so sensitive. I certainly don’t want to discourage anyone. And everyone can learn. Improve. I am always learning. I find that the talent is usually there, but the stories are all over the map. I often have to re-read areas to figure out what is going on. Dig. Dig. Dig. Sometimes I will have to search through the manuscript just to find out the time period. An abundance of characters can also leave me looking to grasp onto someone, anyone. The other issue is that often writers tell a story instead of showing it through their character’s points of view. This dulls the story. The reader can’t connect with the characters.

I would suggest that a writer latch onto the many resources available for writers. If you can’t afford an editor, find a trusted friend to read your book – someone who will be honest with you. Reading groups can also be helpful. Sometimes putting your book aside for a few days or weeks can help a writer look at their manuscript with fresh eyes – often finding mistakes or areas that are questionable. You will now be able to see what your reader can’t if rushing through this process. And if you can’t see it then set the book aside again until you can. There is also Natural Reader, which will read your manuscript back to you. The Internet has great resources for writers – critique groups.

Every word should count.

As a book reviewer, I love to experience the wonderful array of books that I have had the privilege to review. Each writer is special and unique. There is so much undiscovered talent. The competition is fierce. So make your efforts count.

As writer I can benefit from my own advice. I deal with the same issues and always working to improve my craft. I have some great mentors and trusted allies. This support helps me to stay focused and to grow.

Don’t ever get discouraged. Get a backbone. And whatever you do – keep writing!


About Tamera Lawrence

As a child, I had a vivid imagination and many imaginary playmates. I read anything I could get my hands on and wanted to write books like Laura Ingalls.

In high school, I aspired to become a writer. But life for me took a different turn. I married young and had 2 small boys before I could blink an eye and began helping my husband achieve his own goals. So writing took a back seat as I concentrated on running an excavating business. Along the way, we had four more children, making us a family of 8.

Whew! Still, I wrote in my spare time, writing mostly poetry. As my children grew, I wrote my first novel. It was 150 pages long. I sent a sample to an agent, who remarkedly called me and told me I had talent. He said my book needed to be about 350 pages and that I needed to learn to polish my material. I was thrilled.

So… I took some writing courses, learned how to write, edit and polish. I met a teacher and author, who took me under her wing and showed me how to use POV as well as keep a story flowing. Her influence has greatly helped me in the way a college never could. “THE POND” was half written when I began my schooling and I finished the book in 2007.

I have 2 more books that I am currently working on. I would have to say that my writing a novel comes second nature to me and the challenge now is writing the perfect query letter. It’s amazing how I can write 400 pages of a novel and yet struggle with that one single letter.

But I’m finally figuring it out. OR so I think!

Anyway…God bless all writers.

For more information on Tamera and her work, check out her blog.